Title: Publicly available data reveals association between asthma hospitalizations and unconventional natural gas development in Pennsylvania.
Authors: Bushong, Anna; McKeon, Thomas; Regina Boland, Mary; Field, Jeffrey
Published In PLoS One, (2022)
Abstract: Since the early 2000s, unconventional natural gas development (UNGD) has rapidly grown throughout Pennsylvania. UNGD extracts natural gas using a relatively new method known as hydraulic fracturing (HF). Here we addressed the association of HF with asthma Hospitalization Admission Rates (HAR) using publicly available data. Using public county-level data from the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PA-DOH) and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for the years 2001-2014, we constructed regression models to study the previously observed association between asthma exacerbation and HF. After considering multicollinearity, county-level demographics and area-level covariables were included to account for known asthma risk factors. We found a significant positive association between the asthma HAR and annual well density for all the counties in the state (3% increase in HAR attributable to HF, p<0.001). For a sensitivity analysis, we excluded urban counties (urban counties have higher asthma exacerbations) and focused on rural counties for the years 2005-2014 and found a significant association (3.31% increase in HAR attributable to HF in rural counties, p<0.001). An even stronger association was found between asthma hospitalization admission rates (HAR) and PM2.5 levels (7.52% increase in HAR attributable to PM2.5, p<0.001). As expected, asthma HAR was significantly higher in urban compared to rural counties and showed a significant racial disparity. We conclude that publicly available data at the county-level supports an association between an increase in asthma HAR and UNGD in rural counties in Pennsylvania.
PubMed ID: 35358226
MeSH Terms: Asthma*/epidemiology; Hospitalization; Humans; Natural Gas*; Particulate Matter; Pennsylvania/epidemiology